Alpina and BMW? It’s a partisan crowd. You’re either an BMW M5 person or a Alpina B5 person because, while there’s an obvious overlap in the ingredients, the cars can be chalk and cheese in terms of personality on the road.
Despite this, it’s difficult to overstate just how intimately intertwined the pair have always been. Had Alpina founder Burkard Bovensiepen not successfully campaigned the BMW 3.0 CS in touring cars during the late 1960s, he may never have been able to convince the suits in Munich that a lightweight 3.0 CSL version was paramount were the cars to remain competitive against the lighter Alfa Romeos and rocketship Ford Capris. And without the existence of the Batmobile, as the now-legendary road-going homologation version of the 3.0 CSL was nicknamed, there may have been no BMW M division at all. At least not as we know it today.
Sixty years after Bovensiepen identified while wandering the Frankfurt motor show that the new BMW 1500 would benefit from Weber twin carburettors, Alpina continues to work hand in hand with its ally and rival. The relationship is, in the truest sense of the word, unique in the automotive world, with the engineers at Buchloe privy to upcoming BMWs years before the public gets a sniff and able to use BMW test facilities (Autobahn A8 remains shared-use, however).
Alpina even tends to introduce its alternative take on any M car 12 months before the real thing appears, although after decades of manufacturing, the back catalogues of both concerns are now chock-full of glorious metal. Here are 10 of the best.
BMW M1 - £25,000 in 1978, £520,000 now
Many wonder when BMW M will build a bespoke supercar – although do that and they’re forgetting the M1. The plan for the first real M product was that 400 homologation examples would be built by Lamborghini, allowing BMW to go and school the Porsche 935 on the track. Neither thing actually happened, and today the M1, which was eventually constructed by Baur in Stuttgart, is best known as the star of the Procar series that supported Formula 1 in 1979 and 1980. Styled by Giugiaro and with a glassfibre body shrouding a 277bhp mid-mounted 3.5-litre straight six, it’s nevertheless regarded as a masterpiece and prized for its looks, history and effortless drivability, even by modern standards.